Church eyes Sound Transit land on Eastside: 'God wants us to have this property'

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BELLEVUE -- It’s not quite David vs. Goliath, but a fast-growing Northwest church is facing down a major government agency. Both want a piece of abandoned property in Bellevue.

The former International Paper Mill, on 120th Ave NE, covers more than four acres, and Mars Hill Church believes it is the only location big enough to move it's growing Eastside church, along with a new headquarters and bible school.

bellevue_profile_img_18312Pastor Thomas Hurst, in a letter to churchgoers, said, "We believe that God wants us to have this property, and we will continue to be obedient to his call."

 But there's a snag. It’s a site that Sound Transit also wants -- and has already purchased.

 "We’ve known for some time that it’s a potential site of a future operations and maintenance satellite facility that we need in order to expand light rail," said Geoff Patrick, a spokesman for Sound Transit.

 Mars Hill initially thought Sound Transit seized the property by eminent domain, which wasn’t the case. The property was for sale and Sound Transit paid $23 million. Justin Dean, spokesman for Mars Hill, said the church offered $250,000 more than the asking price and believes Mars Hill never had a fair shot at buying the property.

 "Sound Transit has right to take the property if they need it," said Dean. "They would have done so even if we would have been awarded the purchase."

 Patrick admits Sound Transit is also considering three other sites for a maintenance barn. Now, Mars Hill and its thousands of followers are campaigning for the agency to choose one of those other sites, and leave the property they believe God chose for them, to the church.